Piccalilli Pepper Relish

Canned PiccalilliRelish

There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.

Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.

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Tofu Crab Cakes recipe

Tofu "Crab" Cakes

It’s summer and some of the classic tastes of the season derive from our memories of trips to the beach. Fried clams, fresh oysters, shrimp boils, lobster rolls. Seafood evokes the smell of the ocean and the feel of the sun on your face. One such summer treat is the crab cake. Crab cakes are rich and tasty, with the spiciness of Old Bay giving them that traditional American seafood flavor. But have you noticed that crab meat is pricey? Very pricey. At $30 a pound, it is a seldom-made special treat at our house (think 4th of July dinner).  On the other hand, a 1-lb. block of tofu only costs $1.50 and can take on all the tastes that make crab cakes so delicious – onion, celery, garlic, parsley, lemon and Old Bay Seasoning. So, for our family, I make a delicious meat-free substitute for crab cakes many times a year – Tofu Crab Cakes (of Tofu “Crab” Cakes).

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Making Hot Cross Buns at home – an Easter tradition

Hot Cross Buns

If you ever had to learn to play the recorder in elementary school, you probably learned the song “Hot Cross Buns”. “One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny.” You know the one. If you’ve never actually eaten a hot cross bun, they are a delicious, sweet yeast roll, made with currants, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, then marked with a cross of icing to celebrate Easter. Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is an English tradition going back to the Tudors, after the small spiced cakes were outlawed for most of the year, excepting Easter week.  We carry on this tradition at my house and you can too. Here is a step-by-step guide on making hot cross buns at home. At the end of this post, I’ve also included instructions on how to make hot cross buns ahead of time, in case you are pressed for time during the holidays.

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Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail

Like many classic gin cocktails, the Pegu Club Cocktail has its origins in the British Colonial Empire. The cocktail was named after the original Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – part of the British Empire during Victorian times and now, independent present-day Myanmar. The Pegu Club was a gentleman’s club that catered to the senior British military officers stationed there. The Prince of Wales and George Orwell both dined there. The British writer Rudyard Kipling stopped in on his brief visit to Rangoon and observed that…

“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”1

To me, this makes it sound like some backwater of the Empire, with officers biding their time before moving on to greater colonial glories in India.

During World War II, the Japanese took control of Rangoon and the Pegu Club, ending the British Empire’s presence there. Its legend lives on today through its signature drink – the Pegu Club cocktail, a refreshing combination of gin, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice and bitters. 

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – home of the Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail calls for a London Dry-style gin, such as Gordon’s, Tanqueray or Bombay.  The London Dry is the style most familiar to American gin drinkers. It has the classic juniper and citrus taste that we associate with gin. As the name implies, it is very dry and light. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the fragrant peel of the laraha fruit, which was cultivated from the Valencia orange on the Southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is naturally clear, but color is added – blue for Blue Curaçao or orange for Orange Curaçao. You’ll see it often in tiki drinks, such as the Kamikaze or the Mai Tai.

Pegu Club Cocktail - gin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail – gin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Orange Curaçao (you can substitute with Cointreau)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit twist.

1 Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, and Other Travel Sketches, Letters of Travel (1899)

Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with Slaw

Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos

Baja-style fish tacos have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years. The grilled fish wrapped in tortillas make a great summer dinner. When it’s cold out and the hubby isn’t too keen on getting outside to grill, we make a Southern version – Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with slaw.

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Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Soup has magical qualities. It warms you and comforts you. If you are on a diet, soup gives you an easy way to bring more vegetables into your diet in that is completely satisfying. When it gets cold, one soup that I love to make is Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup. It is full of “umami”, the savory taste that makes you go “mmmm”.

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Gilroy Cocktail – a perfect drink for the holidays

Gilroy Cocktail

The holidays approach and it’s time to bring out the festive and the beautiful cocktails. First up is he Gilroy Cocktail. It is one of those delicious and pretty cocktails that everyone at the party enjoys. The Gilroy Cocktail has one ingredient that gives it a deep ruby color and it’s signature cherry flavor – Cherry Heering.

Cherry Heering

Similar to cherry brandy, Cherry Heering is a sweet, spicy Danish liqueur. It is made from crushed cherries and spices that are mixed with a neutral alcohol and aged in casks for five years. Distilled since 1818, It has a dark cherry color and flavor that adds a lot of depth to a cocktail. You’ll see Cherry Heering in the classic cocktail recipes, such as the Singapore Sling and the Blood and Sand.

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients - Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients – Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail

1 oz gin
1 oz Cherry Heering liqueur
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh, of course)
Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Cheers!

Pumpkin Pie from scratch

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks and I’m already starting to plan for the annual feast. If your family is like ours, then the Thanksgiving holiday is a time when you put aside new recipes and return to traditional food favorites and guilty pleasures. Even though I love the turkey and the sides, the dessert is what I most look forward to. Pecan and Pumpkin pies are always a part of our holiday meals. Here is step-by-step recipe to make your pumpkin pie from scratch, starting with roasting your pumpkin and finishing with a whole wheat crust.

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Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch

Green Bean Casserole before the oven

A holiday food tradition at our house is Green Bean Casserole. Of course, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, back in the day, my Mom would open up two cans of green beans, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, mix them together and top with canned fried onions. Four cans, a little baking time, and she was done! I guess I can’t blame her for doing things the easy way, but now that I’m the cook for the holidays, I’m more than willing to trade convenience for taste. In that spirit, I’ve revisited that just-okay version and used fresh ingredients to make a homemade Green Bean casserole from scratch. Is it as easier? No, but it’s infinitely better tasting.

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Halloween Cocktail – The Corpse Reviver No. 2

Corpse Reviver No.2

The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the perfect Halloween cocktail. Or maybe, like it’s original intent, it is the perfect AFTER-Halloween cocktail, when you need a bit of “the hair of the dog” to revive you. In fact, it used to be served as a “breakfast cocktail” to cure you after a night of debauchery.

Even though I said that I was putting my gin away until warm weather returns, this gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and absinthe cocktail is really delicious AND has the creepy name to commemorate either Hallow’s Eve or The Day of the Dead. 

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